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NJBIZ reveals Power 50 Health Care (slideshow)

By , - Last modified: March 21, 2016 at 10:41 AM
50. Oscar/Clover (NR/NR)
50. Oscar/Clover (NR/NR)
How health care will be delivered and paid for in the future is the biggest question in the industry. Oscar and Clover Health are betting they have the answers. On Oscar, one insider said, “They are trying to take a different type of approach to health care with telemedicine.” Some view Oscar as an up-and-comer, while others think it is being prepped for an IPO. The impact is there: “Their target audience is millennials, but it’s forcing traditional health players to look at being more consumer/retail-friendly and simplifying the insurance process. At the end of the day, they have to run an insurance company, too.” Clover is making its mark with one of the catchphrases of the day: Big Data. "They are doing a lot of data collection and building from scratch." - (Photo / )
How health care will be delivered and paid for in the future is the biggest question in the industry. Oscar and Clover Health are betting they have the answers. On Oscar, one insider said, “They are trying to take a different type of approach to health care with telemedicine.” Some view Oscar as an up-and-comer, while others think it is being prepped for an IPO. The impact is there: “Their target audience is millennials, but it’s forcing traditional health players to look at being more consumer/retail-friendly and simplifying the insurance process. At the end of the day, they have to run an insurance company, too.” Clover is making its mark with one of the catchphrases of the day: Big Data. "They are doing a lot of data collection and building from scratch." - (Photo / THINKSTOCK) The Department of Banking and Insurance has increased its visibility as a result of its role in the tiered network controversy. This has put DOBI in the forefront, a source said. “They are definitely a player — it’s just hard to put a face to that,” the person said. “The Appellate Division affirms them every time, so DOBI can do whatever they want every time.” Richard Bardolato is the acting commissioner. Cantor is the director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University. Ray Castro is a senior policy expert for New Jersey Policy Perspective. Both offer intelligent insights on the health industry. “(Cantor) is an icon for health policy and research,” said one fan, pointing to his insights on data collection and treating vulnerable populations. Castro, with a background in Medicaid, helps NJPP in many ways: “He’s very good,” one insider said. “He talks to all sorts of folks and helps them be more informed for positions they take.” The Nicholson Foundation has been willing to be a behind-the-scenes leader in health care reform. Now, it’s looking to raise its profile. “They are eager now to be more visible and have a face for what they are doing,” one insider said. It’s definitely a change of philosophy, but certainly not a change of emphasis, which always has been to be “a driver of a lot of innovation for poorest hospital populations.” Each headed physician practice groups long before it became in vogue. John Tedeschi, who founded Advocare in South Jersey in 1998, is now the head of Continuum Health Alliance, a physician enablement company. John Hajjar heads the ever-powerful Sovereign Medical Group in the Bergen County area. “You are talking about two giants in the industry,” one source said. “They have helped shape health care delivery and have for a long time.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is as important as ever. Many of the changes happening in health care began with mandates from CMS. “As innovative as plans like to think they are, they all wait for CMS to break the door down and then they follow quickly behind,” a source said. CMS changed the way it pays for care, and commercial payers are following suit, making it easier for health systems to adapt to the changes in commercial payers because the infrastructure already exists under CMS. - (Photo / THINKSTOCK) Larry Downs has been the CEO of the Medical Society of New Jersey since 2011, and is recognized for the work he has done there. “He’s done a great job taking a floundering group and turning it around,” one admirer said. “It’s a hard job because all specialists have their own lobbyists now. You have to pacify everyone.” Another observer said he’s done that and more: “He took a troubled organization with an eroding membership and turned it around,” the insider said. “It’s hard working with physicians.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest charitable foundation in the country exclusively dedicated to health. It has more than $10 billion in assets — and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey oversees its distribution. It recently gave $500 million to help fight childhood obesity and it helped many sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. It’s not unusual for the foundation to award more than 1,000 grants and over $1 billion in a single year. That’s impact. Replacing David Knowlton is not easy. Linda Schwimmer has just made it look that way as the head of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “She has done great in a short time,” one source said. “She’s very accessible, very forward-thinking. She is very inclusive, approachable and visible. She listens to what you are saying and asks for input.” She’s not as out front, but another source says that is coming. “She has to find her own footing and pace and start finding the initiatives and issues that work for her.” Nurses are often the forgotten component of health care. Jeanne Otersen makes sure they have a voice as the head of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union. “They are involved with all aspects of health care,” one insider said. “They show up and weigh in on important issues in health care.” The union’s role is growing in importance with mergers — and the push to move care out of hospitals. Otersen gets credit for taking a proactive, forward-looking stance on issues. Teladoc and AmeriWell are among the most recognized in the state, despite their out-of-state headquarters. But overall, telemedicine is changing the way health systems operate, experts say. It is also an important space to watch because, as the demand increases, so will the visibility of local players. There are some skeptics, though, saying that it is just an add-on service and cannot replace an in-person visit. - (Photo / COURTESY OF SHORE MEDICAL CENTER) One insider said it best about the Assemblyman who also is a doctor. “He chairs the Assembly health committee, which automatically gives him the power to affect change,” the source said. But it’s what Herb Conway does in the role that makes a difference. “He is a very vocal voice for the health industry and doesn’t back away from a fight,” an insider said. Then there’s his medical background. “Being a physician, he certainly has let his issues be known with the OMNIA controversy, and is otherwise very outspoken with health issues,” another source said. Sanders, the head of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, is another Trenton insider with the rarest of traits: He is respected and liked by everyone. “He does his job well and is a very smart guy,” one insider said. “He does all the heavy lifting on major policies, does the drafting. His job is not easy.” Hence the seemingly universal admiration. “I have a lot of respect for him,” another source said. “He’s one of the top-notch people in Trenton.” The Assembly majority leader is a regular on the list, and Lou Greenwald’s post gives him more power than others to influence legislation. Some wish he would do more of that: “He has focused his attention on some population health-related issues, but not any controversial topics,” one insider said. “He’s been quiet in health care this year,” another said. Others said that shouldn’t be mistaken for lack of interest or lack of power. “He has a lot going on, but you can be sure health care is very important to him. He will have a voice.” Betsy Ryan has one of the toughest jobs in health care — leading a group that has many members diametrically opposed to one another. “The thorn in Betsy’s side is every hospital has their own lobbyist,” one said. “And on top of that, you have the split between suburban and urban. But she has been holding (the New Jersey Hospital Association) together at a time when it’s easy for their members to splinter off with different interests.” The senior executive director for health care innovation at the New Jersey Innovation Institute at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Tom Gregorio recently helped the school land a nearly $50 million federal grant to help providers transition from fee-for-service to value-based payments using their EMR technologies. If you're looking for someone who can have huge impact on health care innovation, this would be a good place to start. “He's poised to have a big footprint in the state,” one insider said. Jeffrey Brenner figured to be an easy pick for this list even before the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers announced plans earlier this month to establish a national center, funded by $8.7 million from AARP, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “When you have a guy who the RWJ Foundation is throwing multiple millions of dollars at to start a national hotspot out of Camden, you are impactful,” one insider said. “He’s impactful and will become more so.” As the head of Hackensack’s John Theurer Cancer Center, Andrew Pecora is changing the way many are battling the issue with his COTA program, or Cancer Outcomes Tracking Analysis, which relies on data analysis to create value-based care. “Everything he has done and is doing with COTA is really going to change the face of oncology and other types of care for the better,” one person said. “The biggest difference to come down the pike in a long time.” Slavin, the CEO of St. Joseph’s Healthcare System in Paterson, continues to be seen as a rising star. “He continues to make great progress there,” one admirer said. “That’s not an easy situation, but he’s showing he can handle a tough job. I have to think there are bigger and better things for him in his future.” We paired these two since they have been leading the out-of-network issue. Both are respected in the health care field. Of Craig Coughlin, one insider said, “He’s good about meeting with stakeholders before dropping a bill, unlike many legislators.” Troy Singleton, another said, should emerge more this year. “He’s visible this year because of the surprise medical bill. After many months in the spotlight, the out-of-network bill took a backseat to a new controversy. But many say the issue will come back into headlines this year.” We’ve put these systems (Prime, Prospect and CarePoint) in a group for years — but still aren’t sure of their significance. For-profits are responsible for keeping many urban safety-net hospitals open, but are still mired a bit in controversy, namely on the reimbursement issue (and, to be fair, they raise valid criticisms). This much is clear: They are here to stay in the state, but they are a threat to take over the state. “They need to be on the list for no other reason than that they exist in New Jersey and are growing in number,” one insider said of the companies. Another industry insider noted they are helping to keep competition alive in the state, where the mergers are taking that away. - (Photo / THINKSTOCK) Nia Gill, a state senator from Montclair, heads the commerce committee and is in the middle of numerous health care issues, including OMNIA and out-of-network billing. “She is central to some issues right now,” one source said. “She was hot on the OMNIA issue. And she’s going to play a role in the surprise medical bills issue.” Much has been made of the new Seton Hall-Hackensack medical school, but one source was quick to acknowledge that’s not the only thing in health care going on at Seton Hall. “It not only has to integrate its other numerous health care programs into the facility — it needs to move them there, too,” the insider said, giving Gabriel Esteban, the university’s president, credit for the transition. “Everyone knows two things about Gabe: He’s smart and he’s practical. His steady hand has helped make what could be a rough transition into a smooth one.” The head of Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth always gets rave reviews from his peers. Gary Horan is viewed as someone who always sees the big picture. “He is upset about OMNIA, but focuses his energy on other productive things,” one source said. “He’s not a one-track mind about issues.” And he always gets his opinion heard. “He’s often in touch with Trenton about new legislation,” another said. Mark Manigan is one of the go-to health care lawyers for elected officials. “He does a lot of good work in the Legislature,” one source said. His influence, however, stretches well beyond Trenton, as he is a resource for players throughout the industry. Said another admirer, simply and succinctly: “He’s a powerhouse in terms of health care law.” Here’s an anecdote that properly describes the influence of this McCarter & English attorney: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking to a hospital CEO and they have said, ‘Let me check with Scott on that,’ ” one longtime player in the health care field said. Scott Kobler is a regular on this list. And in an era of merger mania, it’s for good reason. “He’s a big financing guy,” one sources said. “He’s good on legal advice, good on hospital bonds,” said another. But it’s his relationship with the power players that is the differentiator: “He seems to have the ear of many a hospital CEO,” one insider said. As chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and the executive vice president for health affairs at the school, Brian Strom helps oversee nine schools and five centers or institutes, including academic, patient care and research facilities. Simply put, he is the one organizing the massive restructuring of the merger of the state’s biggest medical schools. “He is elevating the reputation of the medical programs at Rutgers,” one insider said. One fan had nothing but praise for Strom: “He has one of the toughest positions in the Rutgers University organization,” the source said. “Being responsible for integrating all the biomedical and health and medical school is one of heck of a task in Jersey, where everyone has an opinion.” Most felt Barnabas had big plans for Jen Velez when it hired her away from being the head of the Department of Human Services last year. That became evident earlier this year when she was named senior vice president of community and behavioral health. Velez will focus on the health of communities served by Barnabas Health, most notably Newark, and help arrange correlating needs with improving the health of populations. She will have direct oversight over all aspects of Barnabas Health Behavioral Health. “She really is just a powerhouse,” one insider said. “She got promoted within her first year.” Here’s one way to describe the lawyer who heads Gibbons P.C.’s lobbying practice in Trenton. “She’s the rare blend of policy expertise and political acumen,” the admirer began. “Adult in the room. Has been a consistent longtime voice of the business community on health care issues, but has done it in a way that has not alienated the Democrats.” She does most of her work behind the scenes. “She was key in getting the Camden/Cooper EMS legislation through,” one insider said. “She’s a great lobbyist and great at what she does.” And though she was a longtime employee at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association before coming to Gibbons, some are already speculating on her next possible move. “She could be the next health commissioner,” one source said. “Can you tell me a better choice?” Some think the longtime head of Robert Wood Johnson is losing his power in the merger with Barnabas. Others said it is only his sphere of influence that will change. Jones is now the chief academic officer for the systems’ medical schools. “To see Steve Jones now step up in his role in academic affairs at Rutgers is remarkable to see,” one insider said. We like to think our power list takes both a look back and a look forward. That’s why Kevin Conlin rates so high. He may not be at the front of the OMNIA battle, a role given to Bill Castner, but he has steady influence behind the scenes. And it’s fair to say he was one of the architects of the alliance and the health plan — and will have a lot to say as it evolves. “Kevin is not one to grab the spotlight — that’s not his job,” one insider said. “But you would be foolish to underestimate him. He has a large role in everything that goes on at Horizon.” Barry Ostrowsky surrounds himself with great people at Barnabas Health. Michellene Davis certainly is in that group. “She’s important to Barnabas, especially in Essex County, where she is taking the lead on a number of initiatives,” one insider said. But that’s just part of her resume. “She is playing a large role in the merger and making waves in Trenton in a short time,” said another. “She’s a power player on her own, not just on the health care list.” She’ll continue to play a variety of roles, including the crafting of legislation that will deal with the property tax issue.” Bob Garrett has gotten a lot of recognition for all of the moves Hackensack University Health System has made in the past two years. But an insider quickly pointed out how much his CFO has helped make it come off so smoothly. “Are you kidding me?” one insider joked. “It’s not just all the aspects of the huge merger with Meridian, which can’t be underestimated. But think about what goes into a former medical school, especially this one (with Seton Hall). You have to work with a university, an international company (Roche, which is selling the land) and two towns (Nutley and Clifton, which both have part of the property). Trust me, Bob Glenning has been a major player in all of this.” Some raised an eyebrow when we started putting Picerno on the list. After all, he was the first chief operating officer to make the list. Others say the selection was justified and that he deserved to move higher, which he has this year. “Can you imagine the magnitude of the Barnabas-Robert Wood Johnson merger?” one source asked aloud. “You think Barry (Ostrowsky) is handling all of that? Barry is one of the smartest people in the state. Having Jay around to help oversee all of this speaks to Jay’s competence — and Barry’s.” We heard Kevin O’Dowd was surprised to be placed so highly on our Power 100 list (he was No. 10). We also hear that’s just the kind of guy he is: Powerful without being showy. “I think that he is a pleasure to work with, and in some ways unaware of it,” one fan said. “He doesn’t think about it. Generally, the people who are most powerful aren’t trying to be powerful, they are just doing their thing.” O’Dowd smoothly transitioned from working for Gov. Chris Christie to George Norcross. And he still talks to his old boss plenty. It only makes sense, said one insider. “He’s one of the smartest guys around,” the person said. “He’s being groomed. I don’t think he’s stretched his legs yet, but I think he’s going to be a player.” Many feel he already is. It’s our annual recognition of the judicial branch. And Judge Vito Bianco’s ruling in the Morristown-Atlantic Health settlement showed how influential they are — as it led to a slew of other potential suits and potential legislation. “He made all of us sit up and pay attention to his opinion,” one insider said. So, what’s on the docket this year? More tax appeals — or potential appeals of any legislation passed to handle it. Potential issues with the out-of-control out-of-network issue. And you may have read about an OMNIA plan that already has seen the inside of a courtroom. The state’s judges may have dropped out of the Top 10, but you can be sure they are top of mind for the state’s other power players. - (Photo / THINKSTOCK) Some have said the health commissioner has it tough, following up the always-impressive Mary O’Dowd. Others say Cathy Bennett may not have the same star power, but she has the same amount of smarts. “Don’t underestimate her,” said one. “She’s been there all along and really knows her stuff.” She’d better. One insider said few jobs in the administration require such a depth of knowledge. “She is one of the busiest cabinet members, with issues coming at her all day from completely different directions,” the source said. “It keeps her on her toes daily and all hours of the day and night. I’m sure her daily call sheet varies from tax appeals and municipalities statewide challenging the tax-exempt status to hospitals not happy with the charity care funding formula. Her constituents vary from small distressed hospitals dissatisfied to Tier 2 OMNIA hospitals suing the state’s largest insurer. All this while trying to manage whatever illness, Ebola or Zika, that may affect our region. Given all she is doing and involved with — she probably doesn’t even have time to sit through confirmation hearings.” Some felt Brian Gragnolati, the CEO of Atlantic Health, was placed on last year’s list prematurely — he had just taken the job. Gragnolati, however, justified the selection, one insider said. “He comes into the state and in his first week on the job he had to deal with the tax issue,” the source said. He made many moves to reorganize Atlantic. And one insider said more are coming as he “sees the organization through fresh eyes.” There’s plenty to look at with giant systems Hackensack-Meridian and Barnabas-RJW on its borders. Gragnolati’s next move remains to be seen. Some say he’ll look to New York for a merger, others point to Pennsylvania. Still others say the two bigger players could still be in play. We expect Gragnolati will take his time on this step, something he couldn’t do with the tax settlement with the town of Morristown. "I think he said, 'The tax issue was poorly litigated, but I don’t want my tenure to be wrapped up in the appeal.' " There are two ways to judge Richard Miller, the CEO of Virtua Health. One is his ability to run his health system; and he’s always well-regarded. “Terrific visionary leader with a solid health care system,” said one admirer. “Major player, lot of respect for that guy, smart guy. He runs a tight ship,” said another. “I like his management style,” said one more source. “I was impressed when he said, ‘I don’t know it all and I need to have a good team and be inclusive and have that team at all times.’” And there’s his willingness to take on Cooper Health and its powerful leader, George Norcross, in South Jersey. “It’s a tough market, totally unfair playing field,” one source said. “You’ve got that monster gorilla across the way there.” Miller and Virtua lost their EMS fight with Cooper, but he won fans for how he took it on, and his willingness to do so: “He did a really good job laying out the facts in the EMS issue. He handled it really well. He took on the behemoth.” One phrase keeps coming up with John Lloyd, the CEO of Meridian Health: “Highly revered.” And even though he has announced he will retire soon after the merger with Hackensack University Health Network is complete, many insiders say he is still a power. “He said people have him retiring, but he is a potent force. He’s a former Marine, Princeton guy, he’s affable,” one said. Another agreed: “He developed one of the smoothest health systems in the state. Calculated acquisitions and (there) have been no mistakes.” A longtime admirer summed it up this way: “John is the guy who has been ahead of the curve since the day I got involved in this business. He has a real feel for this and is doing some really creative things.” Some will question how a head of corporate and regulatory affairs could crack the Top 10 in our list. But those who know Bill Castner will only wonder: Shouldn’t he be higher? Castner, a senior vice president with Horizon, was being courted before the OMNIA rollout. But you can be sure: Handling the fallout has been his job from Day One. And he’s uniquely qualified to do it. “He’s a huge figure in New Jersey politics,” one insider said. “He was with the Assembly Democrats. He’s connected with a lot of significant political changes and has connections with South Jersey folks. The fact that he was tapped for the job says a lot.” His impact has been immediate. He helped bring in an all-star team of associates and has helped Horizon go on the offensive, scoring points along the way. That was hardly a surprise to another insider. “He’s a winner,” the source said. “But more than that, he knows how to win. You don’t bring in Bill Castner to finish in second place.” Before we get into the OMNIA fight, let’s acknowledge this: Mike Maron is an obvious annual pick for the list for the work he does as CEO of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. The hospital always ranks highly for quality and employee satisfaction. And the work it does out of the country — “You know they own a hospital in Haiti, don’t you?” — is above and beyond. Maron, however, moves into the Top 10 this year by being the leader in the battle with Horizon BCBSNJ over its tiered OMNIA plan. “He’s raised his profile considerably,” one insider said. “I give him credit for being very aggressive.” Some feel he’s fighting an unwinnable battle (so far, the courts have seemed to signal that), but the accolades have come in nonetheless: “He’s gotten very emotional about the OMNIA issue, but he is a good guy and is very dedicated to the faith-based care.” Another insider looks at the big picture: “He is one of the smartest and most strategic-thinking CEOs in the state. He is a leader in lots of respects behind closed doors.” How’s this for a compliment for the head of Summit Medical Group? “I think if you really pressed some system CEOs, they would admit they wished their organization were more like Jeff’s,” one admirer said. “He’s been smart about his growth and the role he can play in health care moving forward.” Jeff LeBenger does come at the industry from a different perspective. He is, after all, a doctor. “He’s one of those doctors that’s thoughtful about policy,” one insider said. “He sees that his organization and others like him can play a role in managing population health.” His latest look to the future was unveiled last week, when Summit Medical Group announced that its partnership with MD Anderson will result in a cancer care center being built in Florham Park. “He is certainly an impressive man,” one insider said. “A force to be reckoned with. He sees the future of health care and sees what the collective ‘we’ need to do.” By virtue of his position as the Senate health committee chair, Joe Vitale’s influence is great. But it’s his effort to understand the issues and work with stakeholders to find fair solutions that makes him stand out. He is regarded as the most knowledgeable on health care matters in the Legislature. “He is the most thoughtful voice on health care issues,” one insider said. “He’s always a force.” Whether it’s the out-of-network issue, surprise bills, EMS issues or the big one, how the OMNIA health plan is impacting the industry, Vitale is an important voice in the room. “There are a lot of people who want to have a bigger role in health care in the Legislature, but Joe has been there from the start,” a source said. “That’s what makes him big.” How big? Per one insider, “Vitale is regarded as the health guru of the Legislature. You don’t become commissioner or pass any major legislation without passing ‘Go’ — aka Vitale — just like a Monopoly board. He’s a big part of the game.” It’s the line many have used about the Barnabas-Robert Wood Johnson merger: “Barry just did the deal so he could work with Amy.” That’s Barry Ostrowsky, the head of Barnabas Health and No. 3 on this list, and Amy Mansue, the head of Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside. Mansue will take on a bigger role after the merger. That’s no surprise to anyone who has followed her impressive career. “She has the ability to look at the health care world from many different perspectives,” one insider said. “And that is often lost on, or not available to other folks. She’s smart, so it’s hard not to be a fan. She’s integral to getting things done.” Mansue has worked in government and health insurance, so she knows all the angles. More importantly, said one insider, she knows how the game is played. “No matter what world we work in, policy always goes hand in hand with politics,” one source said. “Amy understands that. She is really good with navigating the politics.” The state Senate president is not necessarily known as a health care expert, but he knows how Trenton works as well as anyone. Trenton, right now, is obsessed with health care and Steve Sweeney is calling the shots. “(He deserves to be high) because of what he did with the out-of-network (debate),” one insider said. Another said his power is broader than that. “Chairs have some large role, but whether it gets to the floor, the speaker and Senate president have a large role and power there.” That was especially true when Gov. Chris Christie was out of state. “He was using the vacuum,” another said. “We know what Sweeney was doing. Whatever the subject matter was, he got it done — what he did in the EMS space was fascinating.” The next task is OMNIA. And while others were jockeying for position, Sweeney was setting the agenda, announcing he supported tiered networks. “Everyone was trying to read the tea leaves and see if it would go,” one said. “He’s into tiers, because it will save the state a lot of money.” George Norcross was No. 1 on the NJBIZ Power 50 Real Estate list last fall for all the work he is doing to help revitalize Camden. That starts with his work as chairman of Cooper University Health Care. There, Norcross repeatedly shows why he is such a power broker in South Jersey. “He has the ability to get things done,” one source said, pointing to winning his battle with Virtua Health over EMS and the subsequent ability to get the needed legislation through. And he did it when little else was getting done. “The governor wasn’t doing anything, except that (bill) got through.” It’s all part of the Norcross mystique, which is alive and well. “He’s built one of the most powerful political operations that New Jersey has seen in a long time. His power and influence is well reported.” And Cooper has benefited: “Cooper Medical Center is a fine institution. It is alive and thriving because of George Norcross.” Said another: “George, to me, is a misunderstood character. I think he is actually very soft inside. He has an absolute commitment to Camden.” Barry Ostrowsky is one of the annual no-brainer power players for the list. “Barry could be the finest executive in any field that I’ve ever known,” one source said of the Barnabas Health leader. “I would hire him to do anything. And work for him if he ever asked. His execution and his laser-like focus are remarkable. He is the definition of a CEO.” One who rules over the biggest empire in the state, which will only get bigger when the much-anticipated merger between Barnabas and Robert Wood Johnson Health System is completed as expected in the next few months. The merger will further enable Ostrowsky to assist one of his passions: community health in urban settings, such as Newark and elsewhere. What’s next? Another source feels it’s whatever Ostroswky wants to add to the empire. “He is building a really large health system, and I’m sure there is something else he is looking at,” the insider said. “He’s reading the tea leaves and recrafting, in a disruptive way, what the health care space in New Jersey looks like.” Last year's No. 1 doesn't fall far. And for good reason. Bob Garrett, the head of the Hackensack University Health Network, still may have the longest to-do list in the industry. “He is almost single-handedly building a new state-of-the-art medical school, putting together one of the largest mergers and creating new retail partnerships — all before lunch,” one insider said. “And he did that while still managing to run the biggest and best hospital in the state.” His priorities may soon be shifting, as his successor at Hackensack University Medical Center should be getting up to speed about the same time the merger with Meridian Health figures to get its final approvals. The medical school, however, is the game-changer. “He is building his system in a thoughtful way, much more diversified,” one insider said. “Especially with that medical school.” How does he do it? One source said it's simple: “His energy is second to none.” Which is the reason why his to-do list may soon be growing again. “I hear there are more deals coming,” a source said. Selecting the No. 1 person on any list is usually difficult. This is a most unusual time.
Bob Marino, the chairman, CEO and president of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, was virtually a unanimous selection for the top spot on the NJBIZ Power 50 Health Care list by the dozens of industry power players we interviewed.
Horizon's OMNIA alliance and insurance plan has been the talk of the industry for months. No matter which side of the controversy you are on, there's no debating its impact. “Nothing in the recent history of health care in the state has been as disruptive as what Horizon did,” one insider said.
The insurance plan has spurred numerous lawsuits (and countersuits), legislation, advertising campaigns and public relations protests. Some feel the fight has overshadowed the facts. After all, similar-type plans have been introduced, just not by the company that is, by far, the state's largest insurer.
“Everything in New Jersey always comes down to acting like a school board meeting; the audience with pitchforks and torches,” another insider said. “This is a school board meeting on steroids. People are acting beyond irrational.”
All for a plan proponents embrace as the future — and give Marino credit for having the temerity to introduce.
“At this point in his career, he didn't have to do this,” one admirer said. “He could've just ridden (his time as CEO) out. For better or for worse, everyone is talking about him. It's an indication that he is on to something.
“Society needs people like him; they need people to take risks. If everybody plays close to the vest, you are never going to solve anything. He's at a point in his career where he could've spent the next five years just making sure people were insured; instead he planted a flag. He could be a model nationally. I don't want to be dramatic, but it's Obama-esque. He mortgaged his place in history on this; he went all in on this.”
No one disputes the fact Marino is as honest, hardworking and decent an individual as there is in business in the state. “He's an extraordinarily nice man and a remarkably quiet man,” said one.
Those who know him well say he has been stunned by some of the backlash. But they also say Marino is just as determined to push forward, just as confident he is doing the right thing — providing a new course for an industry that needs one.
“It's easy to criticize (the rollout), but no one else was coming to the table with a solution,” another insider said. “I'm not telling you OMNIA is perfect, but they deserve a lot of credit for coming out with something that is very creative. I think it will continue to evolve and get better.”
Early opinions from the courts appear to show Horizon is on the right side of the fight. The mess, however, doesn't appear to be getting cleaned up anytime soon. Some will say that just comes with the territory when you make such a bold move: “To make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs.”


How important is health care to the economy of New Jersey?

Consider these stats from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

  • It is roughly 7 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, contributing nearly $35 billion in 2012, which was the last year statistics were available.
  • It has contributed approximately 200,000 jobs since 1990, more than double the total of all private sector employment.
  • It paid employees in the sector more than $23 billion in 2013, or more than 12 percent of all wages paid.

So, it only goes to figure that NJBIZ would identify the top players in this top sector of that industry.

In the slideshow above, we'll detail our 50 selections in an effort to show how the person (or the company or the trend) is impacting this powerful part of our economy.


Also Popular on NJBIZ


Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com.

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